Minors Picture

Pitching Prospects and DRA

It takes an army of arms to get through the minor league baseball season. According to the register at Baseball Reference, 141 different pitchers threw at least 1.0 innings for one or more of the Milwaukee Brewers’ seven minor league affiliates in 2016. Somewhat rare, however, is the minor league pitcher who crosses the 100 innings pitched plateau. There are myriad reasons for this, of course, chief among them being injuries, as well as the innings limits and pitch counts that we often see employed as organizations build up the arm strength of their young hurlers. This year the Brewers had 13 pitchers work 100+ innings down on the farm, a group that is easily broken down into a few neat categories. Since Baseball Prospectus recently introduced DRA and cFIP for minor leaguers, let’s dive into the various tiers of the 100+ IP arms and see how they fared this season.

Organizational Veterans

Hiram Burgos (Age 28)

143.3 IP || 4.40 ERA || 3.76 DRA || 100 DRA-

Burgos was a solid performer during his eighth season in the Brewers’ organzation, with his ERA slightly besting the PCL average ERA of 4.48. DRA says his run prevention should have been even better than that, and he didn’t get much help from his supporting cast – the Sky Sox ranked 28th in the league with a 0.660 Defensive Efficiency (DE) and the team’s predominant catchers (Josmil Pinto and Manny Pina) combined for -17.5 framing runs. He was worth 2.57 WARP this season.

Brent Suter (Age 26)

110.7 IP || 3.50 ERA || 2.99 DRA || 92 DRA-

Suter was arguably the Sky Sox’ best pitcher this season, posting a ERA and DRA that were both markedly better than league average even in the harsh environs of Colorado Springs. Suter accrued 2.85 WARP despite suffering from the same defensive and framing deficiencies as Burgos had to deal with, but overcoming adversity is nothing new for the former 2012 31st-round pick who made it all the way to the big league club this season.

Taylor Jungmann (Age 26)

31.0 IP || 9.87 ERA || 18.06 DRA || 169 DRA-
75.3 IP || 2.51 ERA || 3.18 DRA || 93 DRA-

Jungmann not only failed to build off his solid rookie campaign this year, he may now find him 40 man roster spot in jeopardy after a mostly miserable 2016. After struggling in the Show in April, he somehow managed to accrue -4.51 WARP in just eight starts in AAA. He righted the ship somewhat after a “mental break” in Arizona and subsequent assignment to AA Biloxi, where he posted 1.73 WARP in 13 starts. He came back to the big league club in September and struggled during his lone opportunity to re-insert himself into the starting rotation, and could conceivably be a victim of the impending roster crunch this winter.

Top Prospects

Josh Hader (Age 22)

69.0 IP || 5.22 ERA || 2.86 DRA || 91 DRA-
57.0 IP || 0.95 ERA || 1.57 DRA || 72 DRA-

Hader began the season in dominant fashion with the AA Shuckers, accruing 2.41 WARP in just 11 starts before getting promoted to Colorado Springs. Some of the hype died down after Hader seemingly struggled to a 5.22 ERA with the Sky Sox, but DRA says Hader was still highly effective. Despite the misleading earned run average, Hader was still missing plenty of bats and was hurt by a 50 point jump in BABIP between the two levels. He was nearly a two-win pitcher (1.96 WARP) for Colorado Springs.

Jorge Lopez (Age 23)

79.3 IP || 6.81 ERA || 6.89 DRA || 122 DRA-
45.3 IP || 3.97 ERA || 2.97 DRA || 91 DRA-

Plenty of folks were justifiable high on Lopez coming off his 2015 Minor League Pitcher of the Year campaign, but he was a major disappointed in 2016. He walked more than six batters per nine innings during his stint with the Sky Sox this season and his unsightly ERA was actually slightly better than his DRA; he was a -1.43 WARP contributor for Colorado Springs. A demotion to AA Biloxi and out of the elevation may have done Lopez some good – his walk rate plummeted, his strikeout rate jumped, and his DRA was a nice, shiny 2.97 runs per nine innings. Hopefully that will give him some positive momentum heading into next season.

Marcos Diplan (Age 19)

43.3 IP || 1.80 ERA || 3.12 DRA || 97 DRA-
70.0 IP || 4.98 ERA || 3.62 DRA || 99 DRA-

Diplan posted some eye-popping run prevention totals while pitching in the Midwest League this season, though DRA doesn’t view his performance quite as highly; he still managed 1.51 WARP there this season. He seemingly struggled after a promotion to Brevard County, though a big jump in innings pitched (50.0 last season to 113.3 in 2016) may have contributed to him wearing down a bit later in the year. Still, DRA- viewed his work in the Florida State League as roughly league average, wracking up another 0.86 WARP there to close out a successful 2016 campaign.

Pop-Up Guys

Brandon Woodruff (Age 23)

113.7 IP || 3.01 ERA || 1.72 DRA || 75 DRA-
44.3 IP || 1.83 ERA || 1.91 DRA || 85 DRA-

A former 11th-round draft pick back in 2014, Woodruff put himself firmly in the conversation of the org’s best pitching prospects with his incredible work this season. He began the year by dominating the Florida State League, picking up 1.81 WARP in just eight starts, before getting promoted to Biloxi. He posted a front-line ERA in the Shuckers rotation, and DRA viewed his work more than a run better than that! Woodruff ranked only 65th among AA pitchers in innings, yet his WARP of 4.60 was the third-best mark among 880 pitchers. He also lead all minor league pitchers in strikeouts this year, to boot.

Jon Perrin (Age 23)

3.3 IP || 24.30 ERA || 4.70 DRA || 107 DRA-
110.7 IP || 2.60 ERA || 2.46 DRA || 90 DRA-
36.0 IP || 2.50 ERA || 1.08 DRA || 78 DRA-

If you were to look at the definition of a pop-up prospect, Perrin’s picture might very well be featured. He was a 27th-round pick last season after his senior season at Oklahoma State and has already exceeded any expectations that come with that lowly draft status. With excellent command of a three-pitch arsenal, Perrin worked his way from Wisconsin (1.73 WARP) to Brevard County (3.75 WARP) before finishing the season with one start – albeit not a pretty one – with the Shuckers. Ascending from a late-round draftee to a future “durable innings eater at the highest level” may be enough to convince Perrin to stick with baseball for a little while longer rather than pursue his dreams of practicing law.

Depth Prospects

Jordan Yamamoto (Age 20)

134.3 IP || 3.82 ERA || 1.86 DRA || 87 DRA-

The former 12th-round pick from Hawaii had a solid season in terms of run prevention in Appleton, but DRA says he was one of the most productive pitchers in the league. Wisconsin’s defense didn’t do him many favors (21st with a 0.685 Defensive Efficiency), and accordingly he ‘should have’ allowed nearly two runs less per nine innings than he did. By WARP, Yamamoto was the fourth most valuable arm in the Midwest League this season (5.01 WARP). We’ll see if he can build off that next year and move himself out of the depth category and become a legitimate prospect in the eyes of scouts.

Wei-Chung Wang (Age 24)

26.0 IP || 4.85 ERA || 4.58 DRA || 106 DRA-
107.3 IP || 3.52 ERA || 3.81 DRA || 99 DRA-

Some speculated that the much-maligned Rule 5 Draftee’s career was in jeopardy when Milwaukee designated Wang for assignment last June, but since he successfully cleared waivers he has re-established himself as a future big league arm for the Brewers. Wang was solid in AA for Biloxi before getting bumped up to Colorado Springs to finish out the season, and he’ll likely be on the short list of potential call-ups should the Brewers need some rotation insurance next season.

Bubba Derby (Age 22)

132.0 IP || 5.59 ERA || 4.55 DRA || 104 DRA-

Bowdien Henry Asa Derby has one of the best names in baseball and calls his changeup “The Falcon,” so he’s automatically a fun player to follow. One of the spoils of the Khris Davis trade, Derby struggled to prevent runs  this season in the pitcher-friendly environment that is Space Coast Stadium (and the FSL as a whole). DRA says he was about a run better than his ERA, but was still below average for his league. Derby’s likely role is as a future reliever, but I expect he’ll continue to get the chance to start as he climbs the minor league ladder.

Angel Ventura (Age 23)

55.0 IP || 4.09 ERA || 4.73 DRA || 107 DRA-
62.7 IP || 3.73 ERA || 3.10 DRA || 95 DRA-

It feels like Ventura has been around the org forever (he debuted in the DOSL in 2012) yet he’s still a young buck that pitched at age 23 this season. The former international free agent split his season pretty evenly between Brevard County and Biloxi and his two halves sort of mirrored each other. In DRA’s eyes, Ventura’s 3.73 ERA in A+ was a tad unlucky, while he was rather fortunate to have posted a 4.09 ERA upon his promotion to AA. He missed bats at both levels (115 K on the season) but saw his TAv against rise over 60 points at the higher level (.241 to .302).

Eric Hanhold (Age 22)

101.0 IP || 4.81 ERA || 5.08 DRA || 107 DRA-

Milwaukee’s 6th-round pick in last year’s draft, Hanhold has yet to experience much success statistically as a professional, this season included. He didn’t walk a ton of guys this year (2.9 BB/9) but he didn’t miss many bats, either (5.7 K/9) while allowing a .290 TAv to opposing batters. Hanhold’s 4.81 ERA in pitcher-friendly Brevard County was rather unimpressive, and a 5.08 DRA supports the fact that he struggled to get batters out this season.

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